Green Indie? It's A Hard Road (Pt. 2 of 3)

This is the second guest post from producer Miranda Bailey.  Part One ran here yesterday.

A lot of people want to be green on set, but the cost associated with it rises. I had heard that being green saves you money and that makes sense theoretically, but even something as simple as recycling has its costs.

First off you need more trash bins. Secondly, you really need to have someone there to make sure people put the right stuff in the right bin. You would think that a simple sign would work. Recycling goes here, other stuff goes in there right? But sadly, it doesn’t work like that.

I have now tried to “Green” three films. On the last film I produced (with Ted Hope), SUPER, we had recycling bins all over the place but no matter how many times I checked there was always some douche bag that put food where the bottles should be or bottles where the trash should be. I got so annoyed with it I told a PA I would give him a quarter for every can or bottle he kept from getting put in the wrong garbage. Guess what that meant…yup, our budget went up.

When I tried being “green” on our film Every Day (which comes out to theaters in January btw J) we specifically told the caterers that we did not want any plastic or Styrofoam offered during lunch. We wanted to have a “green” film so we were going to use ceramic and silverware. They whole-heartedly agreed to this when we interviewed them and seemed to have no problems with it. However, when the first lunch came I noticed there was not one single silverware item or ceramic plate on the tables. It was paper plates and plastic forks and guess what? It all ended up in the trash with everything else including cans, bottles and food. This was embarrassing.

I spoke to our Green Consultant Lauren about this since I had hired her after The River Why for this film as well. Thanks to her and The River Why producer I had learned a lot about the waste that films accumulate and I wanted to do my part, and not be one of those people who makes a movie about Greening but doesn’t change their own lives. Lauren went and spoke to the caterers. She then came to me and said they told her that it was just the first day and they were still getting themselves up and running. I understood that, no biggie. I mean who hasn’t’ used paper plates at their own BBQ to avoid a big clean up right?  But the next day…SAME THING! Not a single non-disposable item in site. What the hell? Were they still getting up and running? I thought let me wait it out for one more day. Day 3…you guessed it, same thing. My EP and I were pretty peeved so went to talk to them ourselves. Hiding behind our Green Consultant obviously wasn’t working. We asked what the problem was, we were very specific about how we were trying to be a “green “film and this paper plate and plastic ware mumbo jumbo wasn’t’ jiving with that, not to mention we made this clear before they hired them. They then said, “Listen guys, if you want to give us more money to hire a dishwasher go for it, but I’m not getting paid enough to wash dishes”. WOW!

Here I was on an indie film that was already over budget, everyone is under paid from the actor to the craft services and now my caterers are asking me for more money to not have to toss away plates and forks. What should I have done? Well, monetarily I should have just agreed to the toss away ware and kept the costs down. We couldn’t afford it, and let’s face it, indie dramas were hard to sell at any cost, I’d be lucky to get my postproduction costs covered for this film on the sale. Or I could walk the talk that I had learned from Lauren when making the film Greenlit--- which is that the importance of

Greening a film HAS to come from the top down. I can’t expect my crews to go out of pocket because I want them to be green…I HAVE TO BE GREEN and I have to put my money where my mouth is. So I did. We said OK; we will hire a dishwasher for you just promise there will be no more plastic or paper. They did. And the rest of the shoot the caters were “green”. Or as green as that means anyway. I wondered did all that water used to clean the dishes also contribute to waste? Oy! You just can’t win can you? I want to be green. I want to be so green that James Cameron uses me for a new green humanoid in Avatar 2. But it seems that no matter how hard I try it is an uphill battle…especially alone.

I wonder if there is a way to focus on the film you are making and know that someone else is making sure you are being as responsible to the environment as you can be on set. That is the business that Lauren is trying to create with Reel Green Media and I think if more films and shows incorporate someone like this into their crew than we can all be at least a little greener.

This is Part Two of a three part article.  Tomorrow: Miranda & Lauren's Top Ten Tips For A Green Set.  Yesterday's "Can An Indie Film Really Be Green?" started us off.

Miranda Bailey is a Producer, Actress and now Documentary Film Director. She is a Partner at the production company Ambush Entertainment in Hollywood.  Upcoming films from Miranda include Every Day,  & Super- out in 2010.  Her past films include: Squid and the Whale, Wonderful World, Oh in Ohio, Against the Current.  Her website:www.ambushentertainment.com